Preview: Thunder (13-14) at Suns (18-10)

Thunder 117, Suns 113





PHOENIX — For the first time in 20 home games, the Phoenix Suns will arrive at US Airways Center looking to avenge a loss on their home floor when they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

With just the one day off the Suns haven’t had too much time to dwell on the end of the streak, and that’s exactly how Grant Hill wants it.

“I think when you have a tough loss like you had (Monday) you can’t wait to play at home again,” Hill said. “Thankfully right around the corner we get another game.

“We can’t do a whole lot now (about the Cleveland loss) except learn where we made the mistakes and try to come out and correct those and start another streak.”

The Suns have had one day to rest, however, and for the third straight time on this homestand they will catch a team that played the night before after the Suns seemed to face off against every good team on the road in a back-to-back situation earlier this season. So the schedule is evening out after all, but the Suns’ excuses in their previous losses will look rather hollow if they lose a second consecutive game to a tired team. The Thunder took the Lakers to the buzzer last night before dropping a 111-108 decision when Russell Westbrook missed a trey in the final seconds.

When you talk about the Thunder, you of course have to talk about Kevin Durant, the franchise player who ranks fourth in the league with an average of 27.3 points per game to go with seven boards and three assists per contest. I was with Bill Simmons in the original Durant-Oden debate, and it’s really amazing to think so many smart NBA personnel thought the mechanical Oden was a better pick.

Durant alone is worth tuning into a Thunder game for, and alongside him Westbrook (16.1 ppg, 6.9 apg, 4.8 rpg) and forward Jeff Green (15.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg) make up a dynamic young core to go along with former ASU great James Harden, the 45-year-old (in looks at least) who stabilizes the Thunder bench.

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times: this is how you build a basketball team. Blow it up, obtain a ton of assets, luck into a franchise player and then poach talent by taking advantage of other teams’ mismanaged caps, as Oklahoma City did again in Tuesday’s salary dump trade with Utah that netted them promising point guard Eric Maynor.

It would be remiss not to mention the infamous Kurt Thomas trade in which the Thunder stole a pair of unprotected first-rounders from the Suns by taking Thomas’ salary off their books.

That trade makes for an interesting side story to any Suns-Thunder matchup this season. This deal seemed catastrophic when the Suns appeared headed for a plunge into lottery land, with OKC owning their unprotected 2010 pick. If the Suns keep this up and wind up with a pick in the mid-20s, that’s the kind of selection they would probably trade away for nothing anyway. Knowing they own Phoenix’s pick, this game is even more important for the Thunder in terms of what it could mean for them this offseason.

But the Suns aren’t thinking about the 2010 NBA Draft these days. They just want to bounce back from Monday’s crushing loss and start a new home winning streak amid the ashes of the knockout blow delivered by the Cavaliers.

“We’ll be OK,” head coach Alvin Gentry said. “I’m not worried about it. We’ve got a good group of guys, and they’ll bounce back, and we’ll play hard and we’ll find a way to make this homestand a real positive thing.”

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